Leicester City 4:1 Watford
Despite their extensive list of absentees, City were too strong for a second-string Watford side, beating them 4-1 in the FA Cup 3rd round at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
With an unprecedented 17 players unavailable due to injury, illness and international duty, Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to his side, handing a full debut to Lewis Brunt, and giving Albrighton the captain’s armband. Claudio Ranieri made seven changes, with Watford’s relegation battle being a clear priority.
Brunt had the first chance of the game in the 4th minute, his header forcing Bachmann into a save, but City went ahead three minutes later. As a corner came in from the right, Sierralta clung to Vestergaard’s shoulder and the City defender tumbled over. Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Tielemans slotted his spot-kick low to Bachmann’s right.
Watford went in search of an equaliser, but Choudhury, in a centre-half role, blocked a Cleverley shot and then Sissoko missed the target from a good position.
City doubled their lead in the 25th minute with a well worked goal. Albrighton fed the ball to Lookman who took a touch, turned and threaded a ball into the path of Maddison who lifted the ball over the advancing Bachmann and into the net.
Things looked comfortable for City at this stage, but not for long, as Watford struck back two minutes later. A move down the right sent João Pedro into the area, and he lifted his shot over Ward and in at the far post.
Daley-Campbell was booked for a challenge on Ngakia as Watford pressed for an equaliser leading up to the break, and then had a nervous moment after another robust challenge, but Mike Dean didn’t produce a second yellow.
The Hornets went close in stoppage time as Ward stuck out a boot to save a low strike from Hernández and then pounced on the loose ball. But City took the lead in with them at the break.
Brendan Rodgers made a change for the second half, withdrawing Daley-Campbell from the firing line and giving 19-year-old Marcal-Madivadua his debut. He soon impressed, weaving his way past two defenders before seeing his shot deflected wide.
City then restored their two-goal cushion in the 54th minute. Maddison sent Lookman down the right and he sent a low ball into the path of Barnes who slotted the ball past Bachmann. An offside flag halted the celebrations, but VAR ruled no offside in a tight decision.
The 58th minute saw the King Power Stadium plunged into twilight as the floodlights failed. The crowd amused themselves with their own light display for five minutes before power was restored.
Watford seemed to regain their momentum quicker than City did after this stoppage: Brunt managed to thwart a Hernández chance, and then Vestergaard got in a vital block to send a João Pedro shot up onto the bar.
Brendan Rodgers made a second change in the 74th minute, with McAteer making his second appearance in place of Pérez.
Watford were running out of steam in the latter stages, and City put the tie to bed in the 85th minute with a fourth goal. McAteer sent Barnes charging down the left and his cross was dummied by Maddison to allow Lookman a clear shot at goal. Although Bachmann threw out a hand to save, Albrighton was on hand to sweep home the rebound.
There was still time for one more debut, with 16-year-old forward Will Alves, replacing Lookman as City looked comfortable during the nine minutes of time added on.
A patched up side performed admirably in the club’s first ever defence of the FA Cup. The youngsters all looked impressive and those players who are usually on the fringes stepped up to the mark, especially Choudhury who played in an unaccustomed role with great enthusiasm.
Brendan Rodgers was delighted: “I was absolutely thrilled with the performance – we only had eight senior players fit and they all played, and we had 10 academy products in our squad. To see them come in and perform against another Premier League club, with that understanding of the game, and what they gave the game, I was absolutely thrilled for them.”
Leicester: Ward, Albrighton, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Daley-Campbell (Marcal-Madivadua 45), Tielemans, Brunt, Pérez (McAteer 74), Maddison, Barnes, Lookman (Alves 86).
Substitutes: Schmeichel, Stolarczyk, Nelson, Braybrooke.
Watford: Bachmann, Ngakia, Cathcart, Sierralta, Morris, Cleverley (Gosling 63), Sissoko (Conteh 74), Fletcher (Sema 58), Tufan (Kucka 64), João Pedro (Forde 74), Hernández.
Substitutes: King, Kamara, Elliot, Agyakwa.
Referee: Mike Dean. Attendance: 25,710.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber.
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